Hendrix receives Lilly Endowment grant to promote clergy civic engagement

Hendrix College in Conway announced in a Dec. 5 news release that it has been awarded a five-year, $500,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. The award will support a new Institute for Clergy and Civic Engagement (ICCE) at the United Methodist-affiliated college.

The new program will develop leadership skills and ministry capacity for early-career Hendrix alumni who are pastors to lead their churches and communities in addressing major issues within their communities, and to meet the needs of the mission field outside the walls of the church.

“I am thrilled that the Lilly Endowment has put its trust in Hendrix College to help clergy in their early careers find the support they need to be the most effective pastors God has called them to be to make disciples of Christ,” said the Rev. J. Wayne Clark, the college’s chaplain. He will serve as the project’s executive director.

Open to 20 clergy

Two cohorts of 10 clergy participants each will receive training and support during a two-year period. Participants will meet in a series of retreats, each focused on a specific social issue affecting their communities. Following each retreat, participants will be challenged to discuss the topic with business and civic leaders in their own communities and explore ways to address the issues locally.

The pastors also will participate in a summer mission trip to serve a marginalized population with organizations that exemplify innovative cooperative efforts among churches, civic officials and business leaders. At the end of the program, participants will develop a ministry plan that focuses on one issue for the church and the community to address together.

“The first cohort will be for Hendrix alumni only from all over the country,” Clark wrote in an email message to the Arkansas United Methodist. “We think this will mainly be the students we have helped go to seminary from our first Lilly grant we received 12 years ago.”

In 2002, Hendrix received a Lilly Endowment grant to develop the Exploration of Theological Vocation (now known as the Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics and Calling), which allowed Hendrix to put more resources into helping students discern a call into ordained ministry. Since then, more than 50 students have attended seminary.

The second cohort will be open to Arkansas clergy only, and they need not be alumni of Hendrix. Both cohorts will be ecumenical, with their members having completed seminary within the last 5 to 10 years. The application process is still under development, but Clark confirmed that an advisory board will select members of both cohorts. Cohort participants will receive a stipend in addition to having the cost of the retreats and mission trips covered by the grant.

Lilly’s legacy at Hendrix

Hendrix president Bill Tsutsui said the Lilly Endowment’s generosity “has enabled Hendrix to deepen both its role as a liberal arts college and the ways it supports the United Methodist Church and communities in Arkansas.”

“For more than a decade, hundreds of Hendrix students have been enriched by the programs that began through Lilly Endowment’s support,” Tsutsui said. “When you add the people and the communities touched by the work of Hendrix students on mission trips and our alumni who now serve as clergy, the legacy of Lilly Endowment is absolutely incredible. This new grant is exciting, and we are so grateful for the Endowment’s continued investment.”

The program’s first clergy cohort will start in Fall 2015. United Methodist clergy the Rev. Jeannie Burton and the Rev. Mary Jane Cole will serve as consulting senior pastor and program director, respectively.